If you are one of those poor benighted people who profess boredom at the prospect of a discussion about baseball, head for the nearest exit or to the next topic. Baseball is not, like football, an allegory about life. It is not, like ice hockey, a codification of unthinking violence. It is not, like basketball, a combination of altitude and attitude. Ironically, given the three letters of his last name, my favourite hitter in the game today is Jose Altuve. His team, the Astros (more irony, I suppose) claim that he stands five-foot-six. He is superb at second base, the position I used to be slightly less than superb at. I think, though, that I can write about baseball a little better than I could play it.
Baseball, Toronto, Coach House Press, 1967, 2003. “The poem was written during the baseball season of 1965. It’s dedicated to the great American poet Jack Spicer, who told us show to write a serial poem and who was also interested in baseball. He was a San Francisco Giants fan. Jack Spicer died about halfway through that summer, or two-thirds of the way through that season, in Berkeley, at the age of thirty-nine, and his death begins to enter into the last part of the poem.”
God is the Commissioner of Baseball.
Apollo is the president of the Heavenly League.
The nine muses, his sisters
the first all-girls baseball team.
Archangel Michael the head umpire.
Satan was thrown out of the game
for arguing with the officials.
From its remarkable design to its effervescent language, George Bowering’s ode to the beautiful game is as original as it is funny, as bittersweet as it is playful. Originally published in 1967, Baseball weaves together mythology, autobiography, literary history and pop culture into an inimitable book-length poem that explores all the nuances of the sport. Here are all the greats: Mantle, DiMaggio, Maris, Williams and Manuel Louie, guest shortstop for the Wenatchee Chiefs, their exploits captured in passages of off-kilter, occasionally melancholy, lyricism. Gar Smith¹s enchanting and ingenious design has also been preserved; the book, complete with green velvet-flocked covers, is shaped like a pennant that, when unfolded, forms a diamond.
A long-time utility player, Bowering (our Homer?) has written books in many different genres and was named Canada¹s first Poet Laureate. Baseball is a tantalizing glimpse of the writer at the beginning of his illustrious career; a real curveball of a book that will dazzle literature and sports fans alike. [From catalogue copy for the second edition.]
I wanted to republish Baseball, by this time long out of print from Coach House Press, so I added other poems on baseball to fill out the collection. The cover was taken from Albert G. Spalding, American’s National Game: Historic Facts Concerning the Beginning, Evolution, Development and Popularity of Base Ball With Personal Reminiscences of Its Vicissitudes, Its Victories and Its Votaries; cartoons by Homer C. Davenport (NY: American Sports Publishing Company, 1911).”
“I wanted an anthology of baseball fiction that was not all USAmerican. So there are fictions here that are from writers in Canada, Japan and Nicaragua, as well as a contribution by Jack Kerouac, who represents Heaven. By the way, that’s Ted Williams on the cover, getting a hit in Havana.”
“Michel Albert, a young Quebec poet, corresponded with David McFadden and me through the eighties and nineties, often about baseball.”
Baseball Love, Vancouver, Talonbooks, 2006. Having written books in practically every genre, George Bowering is often introduced as someone who adores baseball, yet ironically he did not begin this book about the game until he was appointed Canada’s first Poet Laureate for 2002–04. This picaresque memoir of a road trip with his fiancée through the storied ballparks of a poet’s youthful dreams is built on the bargain of fiction—that the narration of someone else’s life requires the listener or reader to fill in the blanks of what we know is out there, somewhere in the world, but which takes place at such a great distance of time and space from us that we can only imagine it to be real.
“You should have seen these eyes before they healed this far. The right eye got a one-hopper at second base, from which I went to the Vancouver General Hospital and was attended by a surgeon in his Sunday golfing outfit. The left eye got a line drive in front of the bag at third base, from which I went in an ambulance to UBC hospital. That’s David Bromige beside me. He didn’t know anything about baseball. The first chapter of Baseball Love, the longest in the book, is about injuries I experienced while playing ball.“
“The indispensable George Bowering’s Baseball Love is a winning memoir cum love story, as Canada’s first poet laureate and his lady embark on a memorable—in every sense—baseball trope: the road trip.”— Globe and Mail
“As a baseball savant he’s a rank amateur.”—John Allemang, Globe & Mail
“In the annals of CanBall prose, Baseball Love only proves further Mr. Bowering’s reputation as the master.”—Dave Bidini
“George Bowering doesn’t play fair. Baseball Love is so good there is no memoir in the league that can go up against it. Bowering has a sense of story and an eye for detail that eliminate the possibility that he was a lousy second baseman. Reading a home run is fun.”—Robert Kroetsch
“It’s a good thing George Bowering made his name as a poet and fiction writer because he wouldn’t make it into the middle innings as a journalist.”—Marke Andrews, Vancouver Sun
“As anyone who played with him or attended minor league games at Vancouver’s picturesque Nat Bailey Stadium is aware, he talked a better game than he played. To say this is no insult, either. Bowering had a truly unique and fabulous baseball mouth as both player and fan. He literally never shuts up at a game, and he is almost always outrageously funny … Baseball Love is a love poem to baseball, beautifully and wittily written, and a subtle piece of social history. Not many people stay in love for sixty years, and there are few writers with a sharper eye than George Bowering. That makes this a worthwhile read for baseball fans, and anyone else with an appreciation of deep and abiding fidelities.”— Dooney’s Café
George Bowering is fond of baseball, and he likes the alphabet. Having written a few baseball books and a few alphabet books over the years, he decided to write a baseball alphabet book. The Diamond Alphabet is made up of 130 between-innings takes, five for each letter. You probably expected “Mays,” but were you ready for “Uzbekistan”? Tall tales, memories, facts and opinions are interwoven in this delightful collection of short takes on the gentleman’s game that demonstrates the full potential of the relationship between baseball and literature.
Listen to GB reading from The Diamond Alphabet
“Bowering’s latest and widest-ranging valentine to the game he loves…Many more solid hits than misses for any reader from a writer who collects ball caps, ballparks, and nostalgic memories the way Cubs managers collect gray hairs.”—Spitball Magazine